Even by Guardian standards, Chris McGreal – as we’ve consistently demonsrated – is an extraordinary unprofessional and biased journalist. And, even by McGreal’s own standards, his latest piece of anti-Israel advocacy under the guise of journalism is particularly appalling.
So, who, according to McGreal’s March 7th article, has accused the US government of “hypocrisy” for imposing sanctions against Russia, but not Israel? Three people: Sarah Leah Whitson, formerly of Human Rights Watch, Lara Friedman, president of Foundation for Middle East Peace, and James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute in Washington. That’s it, three people, all of whom have thing in common: a malign fixation on Israel.
McGreal could of course easily find a few anti-Israel voices to echo nearly any morally obtuse accusation that he fancies. As our colleague tweeted, a more apt headline would be something along the lines of “Reflexive Anti-Israel Activists Accuse US of Hypocrisy”.
Turning to the ‘substance’ of the analogy highlighted by McGreal, the comments he provides from the activists don’t include well-developed arguments for how the Russian invasion or Ukraine is like Israeli military actions in the Palestinian territories, but here are some fundamental reasons why the analogy is unserious.
- Terror groups in the Palestinians territories, including but not limited to Hamas in Gaza, launch terror attacks against Israeli civilians, with the ultimate goal being Israel’s annihilation. Ukraine doesn’t sponsor and launch terror attacks against Russia or seek the country’s destruction. Nor do they threaten its security in any way.
- Israeli military operations in Gaza are launched in response to rocket attacks against civilians by internationally proscribed terror groups. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was completely unprovoked.
- Israel warns Palestinian civilians in combat zones to evacuate before carrying out strikes. Russia intentionally targets civilians without warning, both in this war and in previous ones.
- Israel took control of the disputed territories in 1967 as the result of a defensive war, subsequently withdrew from most of it (including all of the Sinai and Gaza) and offered, on several occasions, to cede most of the remaining land they control – offers rebuffed by Palestinians leaders. Russia’s war in Ukraine (as well as previous wars in Crimea and Georgia) have been wars of aggression based on Vladimir Putin’s belief that the internationally recognized Ukrainian state has no right to exist.
Another fundamental political asymmetry undermining an analogy which, in effect, casts Israel as Russia, and ‘Palestine’ as Ukraine is that Israel (like Ukraine) is a democracy, whilst Russia (like Hamas-run Gaza, or the PA ruled territories) is not.
Finally, it’s important to note that US sanctions against Russia – but not Israel – are consistent with American public opinion. According to a Yahoo/YouGov poll, only 6% of Americans say Putin was justified in invading Ukraine – with majorities in both parties supporting economic sanctions against Moscow. Remarkably, polls even show that an overwhelming majority of Americans would support a ban on Russian oil even if that results in higher fuel prices. (This is particularly telling given that, even before the war, American consumers were reeling from the economic impact of an inflation rate that’s at a 40 year high.)
In contrast, during last year’s war between Israel and Hamas (which began when the terror group launched rockets at Jerusalem), polls showed that far more Americans blamed Hamas for the war than blamed Israel.
More broadly, Gallup’s periodic poll gauging Americans’ opinions of 22 countries shows that Israel has a favourability rating of 69%, whilst Russia’s is at 24%.
To those whose views on international affairs aren’t informed by a creepy obsession with Jews and the Jewish state, the issue of Israel and the Palestinians simply doesn’t come to mind while watching Russian warplanes, artillery, tanks and soldiers pound Ukrainian cities. Chris McGreal and a few fringe “critics” may accuse the Biden administration of “hypocrisy” for imposing sanctions against Russia but not on Israel, but that doesn’t make it news.